The awards for Week Seven are:
The West Wing Award
West Virginia's Joe Manchin III is a bright star on the Democratic horizon, a fine governor, and a tremendous politician. He's also a stand-up guy. My wife knows him through a mutual friend. I've talked to him enough that he's genuinely nice to me even though he knows there is absolutely nothing I can do for him.
So much for the name dropping.
Finally, the point: I completely disagree with him on his influence with this Friends of Coal Bowl tripe. The governor makes West Virginia play Marshall when it should be left up to the free market.
Two things: (a) In the four years of the current contract, WVU is 4-0 with a total score of 144-43, and (b) I'd feel better about this if Marshall would field an actual competitive team. Interestingly, 2009 was their best chance to do so.
Here's the thing about the lack of free market involvement: Seven Big East teams have five out-of-conference games each is free to schedule. West Virginia has four—not a wise use of resources.
Then there's the matter of the rivalry.
Saturday's The Wall Street Journal ran a short piece on its sports page on the abuse of the word "rivalry" in college football.
For example, Tennessee has a 24-game win streak over its "bitter rival," Kentucky. Utah has beaten Utah State 12 straight. And, now, Notre Dame owns an eight-game skid to USC, albeit with one moral victory.
West Virginia knows how this feels, Marshall. The Mountaineers were on the short end of a 28-game slide to Penn State from 1955 through 1984. To WVU, this was a rivalry. To the Nittany Lions, it was a nuisance.
Next year's game is in Huntington, Herd. Put a BCS-worthy team on the field and West Virginia will talk about coming back for the sake of the "rivalry."
The Y2K Award
In the first half, The Herd looked like the proud Marshall teams of the late '90s, with the spirits of Chad Pennington and Randy Moss present.
Now, I don't know what head coach Mark Snyder said to them at the half with a 7-3 lead, but his Herd came out like it was 1977. That was the year Marshall led the nation in defensive futility as it gave up an average of 39 points a game.
The days of disco were not kind to Marshall. If the Thundering Herd has to emulate any historical period, go back to Y2K.
The 1980 Oakland Raiders Award
You all know Ron Jaworski, the Jaws of Monday Night Football fame. Well, when Jaws was an NFL Super Bowl quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, he got to know the 1980 Oakland Raiders on a first name basis. Those Raiders picked him for four in the XV edition of The Big Game.
Except for their inability to get off the field in the first half, Saturday's West Virginia defense looked like the Raiders of the Jimmy Carter administration.
Holding the nation's top-ranked back to 82 yards on 25 carries and thoroughly frustrating the Herd quarterback, the Mountaineer D has also given conservative talk radio yet another valid comparison of Barack Obama to the failed presidency.
The Denver Broncos AFL Throwbacks Award
To the gold and white unis: U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi...you're ugly.
The "You Can't Handle the Truth" Award
To the game official who was standing so close he could have spit on the Marshall kickoff cover man who attempted to take off the head of West Virginia's Robert Sands: how obvious does it have to be?
One thing is certain: in all his acrimony, Bill Stewart didn't use foul language. He was in the officials' faces so hard after that one he would have been flagged for a singular "damnit."
The Faster Than a Speeding Bullet Award
Noel Devine was a blur in his 14-yard dash to the end zone for the go-ahead score. With notable exception to women at Wal-Mart on the Friday after Thanksgiving, that is faster than any human has ever moved in the state of West Virginia.
The a Little Help Here, Please? Award
Marshall running back Darius Marshall is an NFL-quality player who earned each and every one of the 82 yards he gained Saturday. The Herd's offensive line was way too slow to get on the corner and seal it off.
You're on your own, man.
The Urban Meyer Award
The stadium fell to a hush as Jarrett Brown laid on the mist-soaked turf.
Four things here: (a) Regarding how flat-out Jarrett plays, I was concerned he was seriously injured. (b) He was seriously injured; he has a concussion. (c) Don't worry, the Mountaineers have Geno Smith, and (d) I sincerely hope Jarrett's brain is valued more highly than that of Tim Tebow's.
The "Oh, No! There Goes Tokyo! Godzilla!" Award
It's Saturday. It's cold and raining. Marshall is up 7-3 in the third quarter. West Virginia is faced with a 4th-and-10 on the Herd 27.
The starting quarterback is out loopy. The current quarterback was only a season ago choosing his high school homecoming date among several pretty 16-year-olds. Consequently, he has taken the offense essentially nowhere.
If you're Bill Stewart, this is the deal.
Luckily for West Virginia, you also possess major cajones. Bill went for it on that 4th-and-10 with a Geno Smith pass to Jock Sanders, got it, then Noel Devine did his bullet train run. It's 10-7 and the Mountaineers didn't look back.
For this, West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart is this week's man among boys.